Every week between now and January 24, when the nominations are announced, movies and stars will help themselves — or sometimes, hurt themselves — in the Oscar race. Vulture's Oscar Futures will listen for insider gossip, comb the blogs, and out-and-out guess when necessary to track who's up, who's down, and who's currently leading the race for a coveted nomination.
UP:Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The new trailer tugged all the right heartstrings, and early screening reports suggest there may be a wealth of nomination-ready performances.
DOWN:The Tree of Life. Every time another movie clambers on to the Best Picture ladder, they're climbing over Tree of Life. Can Terrence Malick's summer opus hang on as awards season shakes off a few contenders?
CURRENT PREDIX:The Artist; The Descendants; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; The Help; J. Edgar; Midnight in Paris; Moneyball; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; War Horse
UP: David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Tattoo's full trailer is a nerve-jangling visual feast.
DOWN: George Clooney (The Ides of March). Clooney's thought to be the front-runner for Best Actor, so will that cost him votes in the extremely competitive Best Director category?
CURRENT PREDIX: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris); Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close); David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo); Michael Hazanavicious (The Artist); Steven Spielberg (War Horse)
UP: Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar). DiCaprio's Hoover lets him indulge his current yen for period pieces and weird accents, and there's gay subtext to boot. On paper, it's the most Oscar-friendly role this year.
DOWN: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50). It's too tough a year for Gordon-Levitt's delicate lead performance to slip through. Too bad he's not supporting — that category could use some young blood.
CURRENT PREDIX: George Clooney (The Descendants); Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar); Jean Dujardin (The Artist); Michael Fassbender (Shame); Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
UP: Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). If Lisbeth Salander had been played by Carey Mulligan or Natalie Portman, this transformative role would be seen as an Oscar sure shot. Mara appears to have the chops in the new trailer, but as a lesser-known actress, will voters appreciate how far she went?
DOWN: Charlize Theron (Young Adult). Jason Reitman's been holding this one in reserve, burned by the perception that his last film, Up in the Air, peaked too early. C'mon, dude. Give us a trailer, at least.
CURRENT PREDIX: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs); Viola Davis (The Help); Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady); Charlize Theron (Young Adult); Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
Best Supporting Actor
UP: Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). We've got ourselves a party crasher! A source who's seen the film tells Jeff Wells that Von Sydow "will certainly get an Oscar nomination, perhaps the award itself."
DOWN: James Gandolfini (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). No such luck for Gandolfini, though. "One surprising thing about the film," the source went on to say, "is that James Gandolfini, credited in both the trailer and the poster, has had his role entirely cut."
CURRENT PREDIX: Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn); Albert Brooks (Drive); Nick Nolte (Warrior); Christopher Plummer (Beginners); Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Best Supporting Actress
UP: Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids). McCarthy's Emmy win was thought to be a reward for her Bridesmaids performance, so is she this category's dark horse? It could use an outright comedic performance that everyone's rooting for ...
DOWN: Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter). She's terrific in this new drama, but it's not going to surpass her showy turn in The Help as her best chance for a nomination.
CURRENT PREDIX: Sandra Bullock (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close); Jessica Chastain (The Help); Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids); Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus); Octavia Spencer (The Help);